As exciting as it may sound, boosting immunity is not a day’s job. It is a perpetual work that you chose to do on your body to stay healthy and more importantly disease-free. It is a continuous conscious effort to do what is right for the body every single day. So, what exactly is immunity? What is the immune system? What does it do? Why is it necessary to have a good immune system? How does it protect our body? You may have lots of questions about it. So, let’s begin answering them!
Our Armor against the Invisible Enemy – The Immune System
The immune system comprises special organs, chemicals and cells including antibodies, WBCs, proteins, lymphatic system, thymus, spleen and bone marrow. They fight off the foreign particles inside the body, to keep it free of any disease. The immune system has memory cells that imbibe in them the information related to every microbe it has ever encountered and defeated. When faced with them again, they immediately recognize them and destroy before the microbes multiply. If the virus or bacteria mutates, like in the case of common cold or flu, each mutation has to be fought as a novel one. Therefore, to live a healthy life, it is imperative that the immune system works at its best to be able to put on a strong defense.
Sharpen Your Sword: How to boost the immune system
The proficiency of the immune system should be enhanced by all means. After all, sharper the sword, surer the victory! If you have been wondering how to do that, you are in the right place. As I said earlier, it is not a one-night affair. It is a life-long commitment to provide the best to your body in return for a healthy life. Lifestyle and dietary changes have a positive impact on the immune system of the body. It strengthens the natural defense mechanisms of the body to fight off pathogens. Here are some easy ways which will build your immune system:
1. Sleep Baby, Sleep: We all know the importance of sleep but somehow we pay the least attention to it. But if you want to boost your immunity, this is the first area that you should correct. During sleep, the body performs its repair functions. So less the time you sleep, less is the repair work. Consequently, more is the susceptibility to sickness. Sleep for at least 7-8 hours at a stretch if you want your immune system to function normally. In one of the studies in healthy adults, it was found that those who slept more than 6 hours at night were less likely to catch a cold. Certain pointers for a good night’s sleep that may help are –
- Try to sleep at the same time every night. This helps the body to fall into a habit.
- Switch off electronic gadgets at least 1 hour before sleep as the blue light emitted disturbs the circadian rhythm of the body.
- Make and follow a night routine - brush, bathe, meditate, drink chamomile tea, etc. Basically, slow down.
- Sleeping in a dark room or putting on a sleep mask definitely helps.
- You may also include light exercise in your sleep routine.
2. Fermented Food Or Probiotic Supplement
If your gut is happy, your immune system is happy! To keep it healthy, include probiotic foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, natto and kefir in your diet. If you don’t eat fermented foods quite often, then don’t miss your dose of probiotic supplement. It is medically proven that through a good network of bacteria in the gut, the immune system finds it easier to differentiate between healthy cells and invading harmful cells. The same was also observed in a 28 day study in a group infected with rhinovirus. Those who had been administered with probiotics had stronger immune responses.
3. Immunity Boosting food
Certain categories of food contain more nutrients and antioxidants than others. Include the former in your diet compulsorily. Some of the highly recommended food groups are-
- Garlic: Due to the high presence of Allicin, it is known to naturally boost immunity. Having it raw or roasted, will benefit you tremendously.
- Vitamin-C Rich: Foods rich in Vitamin C also help in increasing immunity. If you’re eating citrus fruits it is always better to have them whole rather than as juices.
- Full of Antioxidants: Antioxidants reduce free radicals which in turn keep you healthy. Vegetables and fruits like carrots, berries, green leafy veggies, etc., are full of antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress from the body leading to a robust immune system.
4. Physical Movement
Sitting on the couch the whole day does no good to your body. Get up, move around a bit, stretch yourself and see how good you start feeling intrinsically. Exercising regularly, albeit moderately, helps reduce inflammation. The immune cells start regenerating regularly. You could aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise in a week including walking, steady cycling, swimming, jogging etc.
Agree or not, stress kills more people annually than anything else, as more often than not, it is either the starting point or the aggravating point of a situation. De-stressing your body could actually be one of the best immune boosters. It is shown in studies that prolonged psychological stress can cause an ineffective immune response in case of a pathogen attack among children. You can choose to de-stress through meditation, yoga, pursuing hobbies, journaling, etc.
6. Ayurvedic Herbs
Certain Ayurvedic herbs are known to boost immunity. They have the potential of fighting off the microbes and increasing the capability of the immune system. Some must have immune boosting herbs are-
- Giloy – It battles microbes and eliminates toxins from the body. You can take it as a juice made from fresh leaves or in tablet form.
- Turmeric – The yellow spice is well known over the world for its curcumin content and its benefits. Curcumin boosts immunity like no other. Enhance its effectiveness by taking it with a pinch of black pepper.
- Holy Basil – Ayurveda relies heavily on this herb to protect one's health. In fact, in the land of Ayurveda, India, it is a spiritual practice to consume holy basil every day after morning prayers in the temples. It reinforces the cells and strengthens the self defense mechanism of the body.
- All of these herbs can be had in their raw form or as tablets.
Supplements fulfill the gap between our actual need for vitamins and minerals and the ones we are able to get through our diet. If the body is not fulfilling its need for vitamins and minerals, it is difficult to maintain the immunity system to its true potential. Hence, taking supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, etc. is strongly advised. Make sure to consult your physician before you start any supplements though.
Although not directly related to enhancing immunity, staying hydrated keeps the heart and kidney healthy. The digestive system also works well when the body is hydrated enough. It is good for your overall fitness as you are less likely to fall sick.
9. Be Positive
Battles are won with as much mind as might. Staying positive can be the biggest asset. It translates into overall health and is instrumental in enhancing the body functions in ways still not understood by mankind. Research has shown that a positive mindset increases resilience to pathogens and infections. Whatever the circumstances are, always stay positive!
Strengthening our immune system is the key to living a healthy life. There are thousands of viruses and bacteria that lurk around waiting to attack us. A strong immune system destroys them at the very onset of the attack. Commit yourself to a healthy lifestyle and dietary changes for your betterment. And witness the magic!